Review: Hunter Valley wine tasting tours from Sydney offer a relaxed vibe and a great day out

The Hunter Valley offers all the ingredients for an amazing day out from Sydney: stunning country vistas, rustic wineries and gourmet taste sensations at every turn. Looking for a relaxed wine tour that goes easy on the wine talk and heavy on the fun? This is it! Review: Adam Ford

Hunter Valley wine tasting tours from Sydney
  • Editor Rating
  • Rated 4.5 stars
  • 90%

  • Hunter Valley wine tasting tours from Sydney with Zepher Tours
  • Reviewed by:
  • Published on:
  • Last modified: January 24, 2018

These small group Hunter Valley wine tasting tours from Sydney offer a relaxed day out visiting wineries and gourmet food producers dotted around the valley. A basic pizza lunch is included, or you can upgrade to a two-course restaurant lunch and two glasses of wine for an additional $30 (you will get this option when making your booking).

Runs: Tue, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun
Departure point: Selected Sydney hotels
Departure time: Between 7am and 8.15am
Duration: 11 Hours
Inclusions: Transport, commentary, tastings and a gourmet pizza lunch

Best price guarantee: If you find this tour elsewhere at a cheaper price, we will beat it by 10%. Some conditions apply. There are no booking or credit card fees when you book this tour with The Big Bus tour and travel guide.

I’ve done quite a few wine tours in my day and it’s taken me a while to get comfortable with the wine talk.

You know, ‘the nose’; ‘the palate’; ‘the peachy notes’; ‘the blackberry and hickory nut undertones’. Recently I had a winemaker tell me to chew the wine. Literally. Like, really chew it to release the deepest ‘tonal essence’.

To most of us wine tastes, well, like wine, and a wine tour that’s heavy on the theory and light on the fun can be an issue. Hunter Valley wine tasting tours from Sydney with Zepher Tours to the rescue.

Zepher operates wine tours to the gorgeous Hunter Valley, roughly two and a half hours north of Sydney. The Hunter has long been celebrated as one of Australia’s premier winemaking regions, which is a bit of an anomaly in that it’s a fairly warm spot. Technically sub-tropical, but saved by the cooling sea breezes that come in off the Pacific.

There are around 150 wineries in the region, which is best known for the Semillon grape. Shiraz, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are also widely grown. Zepher is all about finding a balance between the wine talk and just having a really great day out in this stunning region.

Hunter Valley wine tasting tours from Sydney

Hunter Valley wine tasting tours from Sydney. Image: Adam Ford

I board the bus in Sydney’s King Cross to some very laid-back tunes on the iPod and our equally laid-back guide Flinders behind the wheel. Pick-ups at various city locations completed, we head across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and on our merry way.

Not far into the trip Flinders announces that it’s time to make sure the vibes are right for the day, and to do that he’ll perform a rap. It goes something like:

‘Going to the Hunter Valley…
We‘re all gonna be mighty happy’.

There was more but that’s all I had time to write down. Anyway, the bus erupts with cheers and the vibes do indeed appear to be on course. Further on, Flinders performs a guided meditation for the bus. All in all it’s not your typical wine tour commentary and the journey flies by.

As we reach the magnificent Hunter, with its rolling greens hills and picturesque vineyards, Finders provides some historic context. Colonial Sydney had a drinking problem, and a wine industry was seen as a possible antidote. OK. The belief of the day was that if you replaced rum with wine you’d have less of a drinking problem.

Perhaps it was more farsighted than you’d think, given the spectacular failure of prohibition in the USA half a century later. So the foundation was laid for a thriving industry in Hunter Valley wine tasting tours from Sydney, and today some 2.5 million visitors make the trip each year.

Hunter Valley wine tasting tours from Sydney

Hunter Valley wine tasting tours from Sydney. Image: Adam Ford

Our first stop is Allandale Winery, established in 1978. Allandale exports to several world markets and Semillon is the name of the main game. The result is a crisp, dry white that ages well to around ten years. We get to try several wines at the cellar door and our affable host does indeed go easy on the jargon and excessive descriptors – although I’d say he would be extremely knowledgeable should the need arise.

Next we pay a visit to the aptly named Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop for an included tasting of five delicious cheeses, before heading on to our lunch stop at nearby Hope Estate. The first order of business however is a wine tasting on a deck overlooking the rolling green hills of the Hunter. The 2013 Hunter Valley Chardonnay aged on French oak is superb.

Hunter Valley wine tasting tours from Sydney

Hunter Valley wine tasting tours from Sydney. Image: Adam Ford

These Hunter Valley wine tasting tours from Sydney offer three options for lunch – two of them served in Hope Estate’s celebrated modern Aussie restaurant Harvest (awarded an Australian Good Food & Travel Guide Chef’s Hat in 2015).

The first is a three-course lunch with matching wines for each course. I’m lucky enough to be taking that option. We start with an heirloom tomato salad with watermelon and black olive brioche followed by melt-in-your-mouth Wagyu beef served with pumpkin puree and snap peas. Dessert is a delicate coconut panna cotta with poached pineapple.

You can also do Harvest as a two-course option with matching wines for each course, while the third option is a gourmet pizza lunch with a glass of wine or beer from the Estate’s brew house.

It did feel a little strange at first having the group split up, but don’t worry, you soon get over it. The view from Harvest is something else and at only $30 difference in price from the pizza option, the superb three courses with three matching wines are well worth the extra investment.

Hunter Valley wine tasting tours from Sydney

Hunter Valley wine tasting tours from Sydney. Image: Adam Ford

There’s still plenty more to come on this tour, including the Hunter Distillery where we get to try a range of dangerously good organic vodkas distilled onsite, followed by the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company and its selection of mouthwatering fudges. Is there no end to the delicious delights on offer in the valley?

Finally, we wind things up at another winery, the picturesque Mount View Estate. Mount View is one of only four wineries in the Hunter successfully growing Sauvignon Blanc in the slightly cooler climate on the mountain slopes. Don’t miss the chance however to try the 2014 Reserve Shiraz, bursting with plums and blueberries on the back of the tongue. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

For Hunter Valley wine tasting tours from Sydney that walk the walk more than they talk the talk, the vibes are indeed right for a superb day out with Zepher.

Adam travelled as a guest of Zepher Tours.

Additional images: Bigstock


Adam Ford

About the writer

Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a Melbourne-based travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. Adam has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. He worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. Adam also appears regularly as a travel commentator on Sky News Business Class. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.

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